Name: Marcondes C. França Jr, MD, PhD
Where do you work? Department of Neurology, University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brazil
How long have you been working on FA and who was the first fellow FA researcher you met? I have been working with FA for more than ten years. The initial contact I had with FA was during my fellowship in neuromuscular disorders. During my Ph.D. (2005-2008) under the supervision of Prof Iscia Lopes- Cendes, I kept working in the field.
What got you interested in FA research? FA deeply impacts the quality of life of affected patients, most of them as kids, teenagers, or young adults. In my personal view, the only way to move forward and find effective treatments is by doing research. This is my real motivation – try to help these individuals.
What question or challenge were you setting out to address when you started this work? My group has been interested in the characterization of the neural basis of FA. We have been using advanced neuroimaging tools to characterize the pattern of structural abnormalities in the disease, across all stages and phenotypes.
What research topics or questions are you currently focused on? Currently, we are trying to understand the natural history of structural abnormalities in FA. To accomplish that, we will take part in a large multicentric collaborative study coordinated by FARA. One of the main goals of this study will be the identification of biomarkers useful to track disease progression and to improve the design of clinical trials.
What do you hope to achieve or what excites you in FA research? The interaction of basic and clinical researchers interested in FA is really exciting. In the past few years, many new potential therapies were identified, and some clinical trials are already underway. I have no doubt that the combined efforts of basic and clinical scientists will lead to effective therapies in the near future.
If you have met someone living with FA, please tell us about that interaction. Did it have an impact on your work? I run a large FA clinic in Brazil. Many patients from all over the country come to see us. Each of them has its own way to cope with the disease, but all of them understand the importance of not only of proper medical care but also of research. They always encourage us to pursue doing investigation. Every time I leave the clinic, my motivation is renewed.
You serve voluntarily on FARA's Scientific Advisory Board. Please tell us what you see as FARA's key role in the research process. FARA has been doing an amazing job for the FA community. Much of the progress done in the last years came with studies sponsored or organized by FARA. To accomplish that, they have been working in so many areas, such as raising funds, joining researchers (from all over the world), attracting young talented investigators to the field, identifying the key questions to be addressed and approaching pharmaceutical companies. For our FA research group based outside the US and Europe, the advice and support provided by FARA has been extremely important and enabled us to take part in multicentric initiatives. We feel like we are now part of this worldwide FA research community. This will certainly translate into improved clinical care for Brazilian patients with FA.